Saturday, October 29, 2011

Holiday Spices, part 1

There are a series of Spices that are associated with the holiday.  I decided that I would share those with you in two posts.   I’ll give a small description of its uses and provide recipes to go with the spice.  Spices I have included are:
             Star Anise

The first half of the list will be posted today and the second half tomorrow. Enjoy! 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger's warm, slightly woody flavor makes it one of the world's favorite spices. By and large, fresh ginger is used in savory cooking, while dried or ground ginger is favored for sweet dishes. Unusually I also use this spice in Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend.

Choose the freshest, youngest-looking ginger you can find—old rhizomes tend to be fibrous, tough, and not so flavorsome. It will keep two to three weeks in the refrigerator. Or store whole fresh ginger in a refrigerated jar of sherry, and use both ginger and sherry in Asian dishes. Ground ginger loses its aroma and flavor quickly, and it should be used within two or three months.
Pear & Ginger Crisp
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 pounds pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
Cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 (1-ounce) slices white bread
1/4 cup slivered almonds, ground
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add first 6 ingredients; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Place pear mixture in a 2-quart casserole lightly coated with cooking spray.
  4. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, and salt; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  5. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until crumbs measure 3/4 cup. Stir breadcrumbs and nuts into flour mixture.
  6. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over pear mixture. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.
  7. Note: The slight heat of ground ginger brings out the sweetness of the pears. Ground gingerroot is far more intense and peppery than fresh. If you prefer only a hint of ginger, omit it from the topping.
Ginger – Lemon Pinwheel cookies
Ginger dough:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground allspice
Lemon dough:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.                  To prepare ginger dough, place 1/4 cup butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add molasses and egg yolk; beat until well blended. Weigh or lightly spoon 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6 ounces flour, ginger, and next 4 ingredients (through allspice); stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.
2.                  To prepare lemon dough, place 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 3 minutes). Add egg white; beat until blended. Beat in rind and vanilla. Weigh or lightly spoon 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6 ounces flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.
3.                  Unwrap ginger dough. Roll ginger dough between sheets of plastic wrap into a 13 x 8 1/2–inch rectangle (3/16 inch thick); chill 10 minutes. Unwrap lemon dough. Roll lemon dough between sheets of plastic wrap into a 13 x 9–inch rectangle (3/16 inch thick); chill 10 minutes. Carefully stack ginger dough on top of lemon dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long edge. Starting with the long side without a border, roll up dough, jelly-roll fashion. Seal edges (do not seal ends of roll). Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 30 minutes.
4.                  Preheat oven to 350°.
5.                  Unwrap dough. Cut with a sharp knife into 40 slices (about 1/4 inch thick). Reshape rounds, if necessary. Arrange slices 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350° for 8 to 9 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Cloves (Syzyium aromaticum)

Cloves are an ancient spice, used for millennia in China and imported by the Romans. Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tree with an intensely sharp, slightly bitter taste. Use sparingly as they can overpower other flavors. In holiday cooking, cloves traditionally appear ground in gingerbread and fruitcake, and whole in mulled wine or for studding baked and glazed hams. I also use this spice in Backyard Patch Cinnful Dessert Blend.

Use cloves whole or ground. If you use whole cloves to flavor a dish, make sure to remove them before serving, as in this fresh ham recipe. Cloves don't need toasting before use.

Baked Ham
1 (8-pound) 33%-less-sodium smoked, fully cooked ham half
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Cooking spray
2 cups apple juice, divided
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1.                  Place ham in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Cover with water to 2 inches above ham; cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain; rinse well with warm water. Drain.
2.                  Preheat oven to 325°.
3.                  Trim fat and rind from ham. Score outside of ham in a diamond pattern; stud with cloves. Place ham, skin side down, on the rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Place rack in pan; pour 1 cup apple juice over ham. Cover ham loosely with foil. Bake at 325° for 2 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with remaining 1 cup apple juice.
4.                  Remove ham from oven (do not turn oven off); uncover ham. Combine sugar and mustard; brush over ham. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 140°. Place ham on a cutting board; cover and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
5.                  Note:  Soaking the ham in water draws out some of the sodium so the ham won't taste too salty.
Chai-Buttermilk Spice cake
1/2 cup boiling water
6 chai tea bags
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (3 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Cooking spray
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1.                   Preheat oven to 350°.
2.                   Pour boiling water over tea bags in a bowl; steep 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags; cool to room temperature.
3.                   Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until well combined. Beat in brewed tea and vegetable oil. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.
4.                   Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-third of egg whites into batter; gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Saffron (Crocus sativus)

Saffron has always been the world's most expensive spice, but you need only a few dried stigmas to color a dish and impart an aromatic and slightly bitter quality. Best known for its use with rice, saffron also combines well with honey, pears, rosemary, garlic, and onions, and ginger and cardamom.

For most dishes, saffron is best soaked in a few tablespoons of warm liquid to allow the color and flavor to develop fully before adding to the rest of the ingredients. It is easy to use too much, which gives an unpleasant medicinal tang to the dish.

Holiday Saffron Cake
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup golden raisins
10 almonds
1 teaspoon pearl sugar (sugar crystals)
1.                    Preheat oven to 350°.
2.                    Place butter and all but 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat until well combined.
3.                    Heat milk in a small pot over medium heat. Crush saffron with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in a mortar or small dish. Remove milk from heat; add saffron sugar to pot, and stir. Cover and let steep 5 minutes.
4.                   Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5.                   Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, blending well after each addition. Stir in raisins.
6.                   Scrape batter into a lightly greased 8-inch round cake pan. Arrange almonds on top of batter; sprinkle evenly with pearl sugar.
7.                    Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove cake from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
8.                   Learn About Saffron: These yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus make up the world's most expensive spice because it is extremely labor-intensive--each flower provides only three stigmas, which must be hand-picked then dried. Fortunately, a little saffron goes a long way. This spice is integral in many traditional dishes such as the Swedish saffron buns mentioned, risotto milanese, bouillabaisse, and paella. Powdered saffron loses its flavor and can often be adulterated with imitations. Buy a small quantity of high-quality threads, and crush or steep just before using. Store saffron airtight in a cool, dark place.
9.                   Note:  This cake isn't overly sweet, but it is topped with pearl sugar, which you can sometimes find among the icing and cake decorating items in the grocery store. Regular granulated sugar would work in a pinch, but we highly recommend using either pearl or turbinado sugar. Make sure to use high-quality saffron threads.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

Cardamom comes from the same family as ginger and turmeric. The best pods will be pale sage green and have sticky black seeds inside. They are intensely aromatic and have an orangey flavor that works well in sweet and savory dishes.

Cardamom's essential oils are volatile, so ground cardamom's flavor dissipates quickly. Bruise whole pods before using to allow the flavor to escape—press down on them with the blade of a knife until the pod opens. If the seeds are dry and light brown, they are old and have lost their flavor and aroma. Discard those pods.

Orange with Carmel and Cardamom Syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cardamom pods, crushed
6 tablespoons sugar
5 medium navel oranges (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon orange-flower water
Mint sprigs (optional)
1.                    Combine 1/2 cup water and cardamom in a small, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve over a small bowl; discard solids.
2.                   Combine 1 tablespoon cardamom water and sugar in pan over medium heat, and cook for 9 minutes or until sugar is melted and barely golden (do not stir). Increase heat to medium-high, and cook for 1 minute or until mixture darkens to a deep amber. Remove from heat; carefully pour remaining cardamom water down the side of the pan. Return pan to medium-high heat; stir until well blended. Remove pan from heat.
3.                   Peel oranges. Cut each orange crosswise into 6 slices. Arrange slices on a rimmed platter; pour hot syrup over oranges. Cover and chill overnight.
4.                   Combine yogurt, honey, and orange-flower water in a small bowl. Serve yogurt mixture with oranges. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
5.                   Note:  Orange-flower water infuses this simple dessert with Moroccan flair; look for it in gourmet markets or Middle Eastern grocery stores. Chilling overnight is crucial for imbuing the oranges with flavor. When adding the cardamom water to the caramel, pour down the side of the pan to prevent the caramel from sputtering too much.
Cardamom Rolls
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pans
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
4 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1.                   In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (about 110°). Let sit until foamy bubbles form on surface, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 cup butter in a pan over low heat and let cool just until warm. Let remaining 1/2 cup butter soften in a warm place until spreadable.
2.                   To the yeast, add melted butter, granulated sugar, eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 4 1/2 cups flour, and salt. Stir or mix in a standing mixer with a dough hook until smooth, 5 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3.                   Butter two 9-in. cake pans. When dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 2-ft. square, spread with softened butter, and sprinkle with brown sugar and cardamom. Roll dough into a log, pinching the seam to seal. Cut log into 16 pieces and arrange, cut sides up, in a single layer in cake pans. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
4.                   Preheat oven to 350°. Remove plastic wrap from rolls and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes.
5.                   Meanwhile, make glaze: Whisk together 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Remove rolls from pans and drizzle with half of this thin glaze. Add remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar to remaining glaze and drizzle over rolls. Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. Such awesome recipes!!! I can't wait to give some of them a try.


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